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Paddling in Paradise

Comox Valley Paddlers eager to launch

Comox Valley Paddlers eager to launch

The protected waters of Baynes Sound offer plenty of opportunities for paddlers of all abilities. Bring your kayak, canoe, SUP or other watercraft and explore at your leisure.  Or rent boats from Comox Valley Kayaks & Canoes. You can even arrange for them to deliver your boats right to the beach house (they’ve done it before!).  View our paddling photo gallery here.

Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park

Sandy Island–known by the locals as Tree Island–is an easy, 35-minute paddle directly across Baynes Sound. This island is a true gem only accessible by boat and well worth exploring. You’ll find sand dunes built up around the perimeter by winter storms. Follow the trails descending into the cool, inner, reaches of the island to see ancient trees and a unique ecosystem.  Stick to the trails as this is a sensitive ecosystem of rare, fragile plants and animals.

Sandy (Tree) Island is an easy, 30-min paddle

Sandy (Tree) Island is an easy, 35-min paddle

Sandy island is a great place for swimming or sunbathing, as well as birdwatching and exploring the trail network. Overnight camping is allowed, but please note that no open fires are allowed on the island at any time.  There is no fresh water so bring your own.  There are two outhouses, which may or may not have toilet paper. Traditionally during the summer, volunteers from the Comox Valley Yacht Club and the Friends of Tree Island take turns anchoring in the bay overnight, watching over activity on the island, hand out information brochures and answer questions.

The Seal Islets are located immediately north of the main Sandy Island.  The islets’ dazzling white beaches–composed of tiny, white shell fragments–are clearly visible from the beach house. As you approach the islets, watch for seals zooming past in the water beneath your boat.  You may even see a baby seal tucked up onto the shore awaiting their mother’s return.

Landed on Tree (Sandy) Island

Landed on Tree (Sandy) Island

NEVER approach a baby seal.  They have not been abandoned.  Keep your distance and use your camera!

Denman Island – Henry Bay

Just south of Sandy Island is beautiful, serene  Henry Bay, a 45-minute paddle on the northwest end of Denman Island – a great place for beachcombing and picnics as well as a popular place for local sailors to catch the sunset and anchor overnight. You will observe the netting of the Oyster farms on the floor of the bay.

Continue south along the shoreline and around the point, exploring the Denman Island coast and, if you’re quiet, the birdlife. Cross back towards Union Bay and then north, past the log sort and back to the beach house.


From Sandy Island looking South to Henry Bay

From Sandy Island looking South to Henry BayAt low tide, you can walk from Sandy Island to Denman Island – there is a strip of sand that connects the two a at tides of about 8 feet and lower.

Royston Wrecks

The Royston Shipwrecks are reached by following the shoreline north for about 1.5 hours. They were placed there as a breakwater.

Log Sort – Seals and Sea Lions

The Log Sort is a very short, 5- to 10-minute paddle south along the shoreline. This is an active log sort when local logging companies are operating.  Huge loads of logs are dumped into the water to be sorted for market.  Cute little tugs then scoot around to sort and organize the logs.

During the summer, a paddle south along the edge of the log sort will reveal a ‘seal nursery’ of mother and baby seals, hauled out onto the logs.  Be very quiet and they will not dive into the water.  You may find a male or two suddenly pop up next to your boat, breathing loudly through their nostrils. They are saying, “That’s close enough!” Great Blue Herons also frequent the log booms at the sort.

For several months in the winter, huge Steller Sea Lions take over the log sort, displacing the seals and bellowing as if they were a bunch of rowdy partiers.  BE VERY CAREFUL if you want to paddle closer to the sea lions.  These guys weigh several thousand pounds and they can be very aggressive.  Last March I wanted to get a photo (I did!), so we paddled towards them.  We were what I thought was a safe, unobtrusive distance away when suddenly the bellowing turned to GROWLS and several of the giant mammals dove into the water.  I won’t be paddling near them again anytime soon.

The sea lions also travel up and down the shore during the day.  They often swim with their heads out of the water, unlike the seals who generally just pop up to breathe. In Spring of 2013, we observed several Sea Lions hunting as a team directly in front of the house.

While the Sea Lions are in residence, you will notice many more seals in the water, displaced by the big guys at the log sort.

Neighborhood Orca (Guaranteed Sighting!)

You are guaranteed an Orca sighting–this one is just a little farther out of the water than you might expect! This is a good, safe shoreline paddle that’s great for newbies as you can remain close to shore the whole time.  After an approximately 15-min paddle north along the shoreline, you will find a life-sized Orca, caught in mid-frolic as it breaches at the edge of its owners’ waterfront property.  Watch for piled-rock outcrops, however; In the 70’s and earlier, it was customary for waterfront homeowners to clear large boulders from the intertidal zone in front of their property to create a deeper swim area and safer place to launch and land their boats. These boulders generally are piled along property lines and can continue for quite a distance offshore.

This is a great short-distance ‘garden tour’ paddle at high tide, where you can come up close to beaches, view gardens, explore swim floats and chat with neighbors on their evening paddle or swim.

Peaceful evening

Peaceful evening

Suncatcher Paddle

One of our favorite paddles at the end of a long day, after the shadows have lengthened on land, is to paddle just a short distance offshore, ‘raft’ our boats and sit back to soak up the still-hot sun and perhaps enjoy an aperitif. Get comfortable, take a few deep breaths to wash the day away, and relax. After just a short while of quiet, you will notice the wide variety of wildlife, and likely experience some close encounters with seabirds, seals, and perhaps view some impressively dense schools of fish passing below your boat. A sudden flurry of fish jumping may indicate a seal is not far behind… and always listen for the sound of Orca whales blowing, which carries a great distance over calm waters.



Evening paddle: heading home

Evening paddle: heading home